AS Psychology - Attachment - Explanations of attachment

AS Psychology

AQA Exam

  • Created by: Katie
  • Created on: 24-05-11 11:13

AS Psychology

AS Level Psychology - 


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What is attachment ?

Attachment is a close emotional bond between infant and caregiver. Attached infants will show a desire to be close to their primary care giver. They'll show distress when they're separated, and pleasure when reunited. 

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Harlow's Monkeys

Harlow (1959) Showed the need for 'Contact comfort' 

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Method, Results, Conclusions, Evaluation

Method: Monkeys to see if they would prefer food or comfort as attachment figure. Lab experiment. They had two surrogate mothers one was wire food source and other was made of cloth with no food.

Results: monkeys spent most of time clinging to cloth mother for comfort and only used wire one for food grew up to have social and emotional disturbance.

Conclusion:  they formed attachments for comfort and protection

Evaluation: (+) Lab experiment, strict control over variables (-)Can't generalise this study to humans because monkeys and humans are qualitatively different (-) Ethical problems , monkeys were put in a stressful situation and some showed signs of psychological damage from the experiment.

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John Bowlby's Evolutionary Theory

Argued that something like imprinting occurs in humans. His several main claims are: 

  • We have evolved a biological need to attach to our main care giver (Monotropy) 
  • Strong attachment provides a safe base 
  • It also gives us a template for all future relationships
  • First 3 years of our life are the Critical Period for this attachment to develop, otherwise we might not do so.
  • If an attachment doesn't form or is broken then it might damage the child's social and emotional development.
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Comments on Bowlby's Theory

(+) There is some evidence for his claims, Harlow's study supports the idea that we have evolved the need to attach. It also suggest that there may be damage if an attachment isn't formed. 

(-) Shaffer and Emerson provided evidence Against Bowlby's claims about monotropy, They found that children formed multiply attachments.

(-) Harlow's study also goes against Bowlby's idea of monotropy as he found that monkeys that grew up together but without a mother didn't show signs of social and emotional disturbance later in life. They didn't have a primary caregiver.

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komal maqsood


This is good but the entire attachments topic is not covererd.

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